Sixteen years ago, my wife and I did an intensive weekend of premarital counseling a month before we got married. It was the best investment we’ve ever made into our marriage. Over the past 7-10 years, I’ve provided premarital counseling for nearly 100 couples and one of the leading motivators has been because of what premarital counseling meant to me as a soon-to-be-married man. For years, I’ve encouraged couples to invest in their marriage regularly. I’d tell them to attend a marriage retreat together. Read a book together. See a counselor for occasional check-ups.

However, there is a stigma about seeing a counselor, isn’t there? Premarital counseling is fine, right? You’re about to get married, so its expected. However, when you find out someone is seeing a counselor, the first thing that comes to your mind is, “what’s going on with them?” or “I hope they’re okay.” I think we’re reluctant to see a counselor because it feels like failure. A voice in our head might say, “you couldn’t do this on your own, so you need someone else to help fix you.”

I’d admit it. I’ve felt this way too. I’m an independent, problem-solving, get-it-done kind of guy. Seeing a counselor is a last resort kind of option. That was until Sara and I started seeing a counselor nine months ago.

We’ve been married for fifteen years. Fifteen WONDERFUL years. We have an incredible marriage and I’ve never regretted saying “I do” do this wonderful woman and I know she’d say the same (because she’s told me). However, no one goes through fifteen years of marriage without accumulating some “stuff” along the way. We’ve always had excellent communication skills, but we have times where just still don’t communicate as well as we should. We also found ourselves in a life transition phase. Our kids were getting older, both of them almost school age and it was a good time to figure out what our family was going to look like during this phase of life. However, we were having a hard time expressing desires, communicating fears and dreaming about what this very different phase of life looked like. We both came to the realization that we needed someone to help us to talk though all this stuff. So, we found a wonderful counselor.

Sara and I expected 5-6 weeks of sessions. Certainly that would help us through the fog. Nine months later, I can sum up our experience in one simple statement.

“You should see a counselor!”

The honest truth is that it did only take us 5-6 weeks to work through the fog we had been experiencing. We developed some better habits around communication and saw some bad habits that we had developed. However, we discovered a valuable resource in our counselor. He constantly asks questions we didn’t think of asking. He’d see things we didn’t. He’d encourage us to have conversations we didn’t know we needed to have.

Nine months later, our marriage is stronger than it’s ever been. We’re only meeting with the counselor monthly or every other month now, but we look forward to our sessions when they come. We’re so grateful for the opportunity though.

Why you need a counselor

I’ve been in ministry long enough to know. Every ministry leader I’ve talked to has a story. You know, the story where a manager crushed your dreams and broke your heart. Its a wonder you’re even in ministry anymore. I’ve heard the story of family stress due to a demanding ministry scheduled.

Ministry is heartbreaking.

Ministry often crushes families.

To many church staff environments are soul-destroying.

Go see a counselor.  You’d be surprised by what’s in your heart that you didn’t even know was there. Counseling isn’t cheap, but you can often find special deals for pastors. It’s be best investment Sara and I have made into our family in over a decade. For the sake of your marriage, your future ministry and your own heart, go find a counselor.

You’ll thank me later, I promise.